Columbia County hospital committee meets today



A committee to help recommend a bidder to build the first hospital in Columbia County will meet today.

The 11-person Columbia County Hospital Review Committee appointed by the Columbia County Commission will hear from all three hospitals vying to work with the commission to put in a proposal for a hospital. The meeting is set to begin at 6 p.m. in the Evans Government Center Auditorium.

The meeting was originally scheduled as a closed meeting Monday evening but was rescheduled as an open meeting after a protest by The Augusta Chronicle.

The three bidders – Georgia Regents Health System, Doctors Hospital and University Hospital – will make presentations to committee members.

The committee is scheduled to meet later and make a recommendation to the commission. The county would then work on making a request for a Certificate of Need to build a hospital in the county, the state’s largest without one.

University and Doctors were rebuffed last year in competing attempts to get a CON to build a free-standing Emergency Department. The state ruled that the county is adequately served by emergency services in Augusta. Doctors acknowledged in its bid that the state’s needs requirement would prohibit it from getting a CON to build a hospital in Columbia County.

However, there are three exceptions to the needs requirement that county officials said the state made them aware of last year. They are: if the hospital would be built by an existing teaching hospital, or by an existing trauma center, or if the county puts up 20 percent of the cost of construction. None of the exceptions has been used before.

The three bidders have put forth different plans for what the new hospital should look like.

Georgia Regents has by far the most ambitious proposal, pushing a “health campus” that would include a satellite of the university and a 144-bed hospital and office building, with project costs anywhere from $280 million to $310 million. University, which already has a large health campus in Evans, is proposing a 100-bed facility there at a cost of $130 million to $140 million. Doctors is pushing a 108-bed, $150 million hospital with a $14.5 million medical office building.